First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Live with Yasser and Geraldo
I saw Geraldo the other night, interviewing Yasser Arafat.
The thing is, I was awake. So it, like, really happened.
What a comedy.
Geraldo, always the most earnest-sounding guy on planet Earth -- clueless, but fervent.
And Yasser Arafat, the guy who graduated first in his class from the Josef Goebbels School of Truth in Media.
You should've heard his valedictory address. It was a two-fer. He gave half of it in English, where he said things like, "Can't we all be friends? All I want is a little postage stamp piece of land where my people can live in peace."
The other half was in Arabic, where he said, "Strap bombs to your fine young Muslim sons and send them into crowds of Israeli schoolchildren and blow them up!"
He got a standing ovation. But it was the home crowd.
Anyway, what Geraldo interviewed was the English-speaking Arafat, who kept saying things like:
"Why are the Israelis claiming to be afraid of us? They have the strongest army in the Middle East, and all we have is a few policemen....
"How can I keep my people from striking back against the Israelis for their attacks on us?...
"We are ready for peace any time. All Israel has to do is stop attacking us."
Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear the Arabic conversation after Geraldo left.
Cameras are gone, lights are gone, Americans are gone. Here's the conversation:
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
"What a funny American."
"You see his show where he opens Al Capone's vault? Empty! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."
"We are ready for peace any time! You were so funny, Yasser!"
"No, no. It was true. Peace any time. All the Israelis have to do is stop attacking us ... because they're all dead!"
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
"Quick, turn on the video of that last suicide bomber. I want to watch the part where he says he's going to look for a group of pretty Israeli schoolgirls to blow up, so their parents will understand that Allah does not love them, he loves us."
"Yes! Yes! Allah akbar!"
I don't speak Arabic, so that may not be what they actually said.
But it certainly is what they do.
It's the moral equivalency thing that drives me crazy. "Today, in the escalating violence in the middle east, Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers. Twelve Palestinians were killed, and two Israeli soldiers died."
You've heard that one over and over again, haven't you?
Where's Paul Harvey with the rest of the story?
By calling the Israelis "soldiers" and not tagging the Palestinians at all, what does it sound like? "Heavily armed Jewish storm troopers attacked a crowd of innocent Palestinian civilians squatting in the shade on a hot afternoon, and started blowing them away for target practice. One of them was able to throw a rock and hit the biggest Israeli in the head. That's when the Israelis really got mad."
The truth is that most of the killings in Israel and Palestine during the intifadeh have been in confrontations instigated by the Palestinians.
Now, it is their right -- it is the right of all people -- to revolt against a hated government.
But the moment you begin your revolt, you lose civilian status.
Whether you wear uniforms or not, when you attack the soldiers of the hated oppressor, you are soldiers, too. You may have a right to attack them, but they also have a right to shoot back.
And when, instead of attacking the forces that maintain the hated authority of the enemy, you start to attack innocent civilians, you move beyond soldier status. You are all the way over the line to "terrorist."
There is no moral equivalency between Israel and Palestine in this current war.
There might have been. The U.N. resolution that created Israel also created a Palestinian state. The territory that was historically both Israel and Palestine was supposed to be divided between them.
But the state of Palestine never came into existence.
Why not? Because the Arab countries surrounding Israel immediately invaded. They expected to destroy all Israeli resistance and drive the Jews out of Palestine.
But Israel didn't read the script. Israel won.
When that first war ended, Israel controlled a strip of land along the Mediterranean, a swath of desert reaching down through the Negeb to Elath so they had access to the Red Sea, a finger of land that reached Jerusalem, where the Israelis controlled half the city, and another stretch of land reaching east to the Sea of Galilee.
However, the Muslims still controlled a sizable portion of the land the U.N. had set aside as a Palestinian state -- the regions now called the West Bank and Gaza.
For eighteen years, from 1949 to 1967, those areas were completely under the control of Muslim Arabs. At any time, they could have established a Palestinian state in either or both of those territories.
Instead, Egypt ruled in Gaza, and Jordan ruled on the West Bank. The people who lived there were never called "Palestinians." The Palestinians in refugee camps were never allowed to go to "Palestine" and settle there and build their own nation.
During all those years, the only Palestinians who got to vote in free multi-party elections were the ones who stayed in Israel.
People talk about a Palestinian state as if it would represent the will of the Palestinian people. As if it would have free elections and political parties and a free press where people could say what they wanted. You know, the moral equivalent of Israel, only run by Arabs.
But that is not one of the choices on the table.
Yasser Arafat is a thug. He makes Castro look nice. If you're a Palestinian and you think Yasser Arafat is wrong about anything, keep that opinion to yourself. Because if you say it out loud, somebody will come and shoot you in the knees. Or the head.
If Yasser Arafat wanted to stop terrorism that originates in his territory, he could. He doesn't want to. He praises the suicide bombers. He preaches violent struggle and the destruction of Israel. But he does this in Arabic, when Western cameras aren't there.
Israel had no moral obligation to return the West Bank and Gaza. Israel acquired them in a war started by Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in 1967, and it kept them so it could have secure borders.
But because of U.S. pressure, in recent years Yasser Arafat and his brown shirts have been allowed to rule -- unelected -- over parts of that territory.
If there are any Palestinians who wish for the good old days before Yasser Arafat came in from outside and started his reign of terror, you'll never hear from them. Because they're either terrified or dead.
Inside Israel, you hear all kinds of opinions from everybody, Muslims and Jews alike.
But from Yasser Arafat's zone, you hear nothing but Arafat's party line.
Whose is the evil army of occupation that systematically terrorizes Palestinians?
Arafat is the aggressor. Arafat is the terrorist. Arafat is the one whose policy is to kill civilians. Arafat is the one who is trying to destroy a nation of people who just want to be left alone.
There's your moral equivalence, Geraldo.
Too bad you weren't around in 1939 to interview Hitler, so he could tell the world how those nasty Poles just wouldn't leave poor Germany alone.
Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.
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